Category Archives: GUEST POST

Guest Post – Tim Standish, author of “The Sterling Detective”

A spoon of Moorcock, a dash of Morrison and a cup of Gibson: inspirations for alternative history in The Sterling Directive

Reading comics and graphic novels as a teenager is where I first came stories where pasts and futures weren’t changed (for example by time travel – something I’d already come across in science fiction) but were blended together, normally in the Victorian era and apparently as something called ‘steampunk’. There are a few theories about when and how this term was coined but, in part, it results from considering the question: what if the Victorians had access to steam-powered computing and technology? 

This question has been answered in different ways by a multitude of works including the likes of Michael Moorcock’s The Land Leviathan, Bruce Sterling and William Gibson’s The Difference Engine, Bryan Talbot’s Luther Arkwright comics, Grant Morrison’s Sebastian O graphic novel and, of course, Alan Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. (This is by no means intended as a definitive list – that’s a daunting task that I’ll put off for another day – these are just the stories from my own reading led me in this direction).

The first scene of the Sterling Directive that I wrote was the start of the duel on a station platform in Chapter 1. When I wrote this, I didn’t know who the characters were, or why they were duelling, but what I did know was that it was in London, in the 1890s, the hero was an army officer and that he’d bought a ticket to go duelling which was, for some reason, a perfectly legal thing to do in this timeline and that somewhere overhead there was almost certainly an airship.

At which point I had the idea of writing something in an alternative timeline. Once that was decided, the next step was to think about how far to deviate from history. Some alt-history fiction can be very alternative – China Miéville’s Perdito Street Station for example takes place in a completely different world, adds aliens, trans-dimensional beings and magic and still manages to weave it all together as a coherently and excellent recognisably steampunk whole. Other books and series stay in Victorian London but add magic, vampires or other supernatural elements – you can see this in the recent Netflix series Carnival Row for example. 

I felt instinctively that I wanted to try and create a recognisable alternative not too far from our own world. A changed setting that supported the story rather than being the story itself, one that was alternative but alternative ‘in the background’, as it were, as part of a believable world that had evolved organically away from actual history rather than something that felt like a completely new world. William Gibson is a big influence here, partly of course because of the Difference Engine but especially his ‘Sprawl’ series which, I think, does such a great job of revealing a dystopian future as a world that seemed as natural to me as a reader as it did to the characters within it.

The point from which the alternative timeline starts in The Sterling Directive is Charles Babbage’s invention of the Difference and Analytical Engines. Babbage had his ideas for these mechanical computers in the first half of the 19th century but, for a range of reasons, not least of which was insufficient financial backing, they never got off the ground. A recurring theme in steampunk storytelling is that the Engines were actually a success and kick-started a Victorian computer age, and that’s also what I took as my starting point. 

I reasoned that this would begin around 1850. In my version of history Babbage exhibited a fully functioning prototype of the analytical engine at the Great Exhibition that would play a version of ‘pong’ with visitors, and that by 1896 (when the Sterling Directive is set) computers would be in domestic use. I saw this as broadly analogous to the time elapsed between the use of the Bletchley Park ‘bombes’ in the second world war and the spread of basic personal computers at home in the mid to late 1980s and that’s the benchmark that I took for what was possible and what might be different in terms of technology. 

Add this to the telegraph which was already a sort of Victorian internet (see Tom Standage’s excellent book of that name) and you have a technological background that would be familiar to most readers: an ‘on-wire salon’ is a sort of chat room, the character Patience is a ‘tapper’, which is the equivalent of a hacker, and the main character, Sterling, has a long-distance conversation by text with his brother. 

With a broad sense of the end point in terms of computing technology in place, I thought about how different aspects of life: society, politics and commerce might be affected along the way and began to sketch out what this alternative world might look like. Some changes would be small (motorised taxis rather than horse-drawn carriages) and some would be bigger (transatlantic airships) and some would be fundamentally different (the Confederate States of America).  

I say ‘sketch out’ and, indeed, I started the book with nothing more than some rough ideas about what the world look like. It was only through writing the characters and having them start navigating the world that some of the details came into focus. Over the course of writing, rewriting and editing the book my alternative world gradually evolved as a suitable backdrop to what I hope is an exciting story, something that the younger me would have been delighted to add to his reading list: part historical thriller, part science fiction with a dash of quirky invention.

Book Title: The Sterling Directive

Author: Tim Standish

Publication Date: 20 August 2020

Publisher: Unbound

Page Length: 304 pages

Genre: Alt-historical thriller

Blurb:

It is 1896. In an alternative history where Babbage’s difference engines have become commonplace, Captain Charles Maddox, wrongly convicted of a murder and newly arrested for treason, is rescued from execution by a covert agency called the Map Room. 

Maddox is given the choice of taking his chances with the authorities or joining the Map Room as an agent and helping them uncover a possible conspiracy surrounding the 1888 Ripper murders. Seeing little choice, Maddox accepts the offer and joins the team of fellow agents Church and Green. With help from the Map Room team, Maddox (now Agent Sterling) and Church investigate the Ripper murders and uncover a closely guarded conspiracy deep within the British Government. Success depends on the two of them quickly forging a successful partnership as agents and following the trail wherever, and to whomever, it leads. 

An espionage thriller set in an alternative late 19th-century London.

Buy Links:

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1789650852/

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1789650852/

Amazon CA: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/1789650852/

Amazon AU: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/1789650852/

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-sterling-directive-tim-standish/1137267348?ean=9781789650860

Waterstones: https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-sterling-directive/tim-standish/9781789650853 

Audio: https://www.waterstones.com/audiobook/the-sterling-directive/tim-standish/gordon-griffin/9781004016792

Author Bio:

Tim Standish

Tim Standish grew up in England, Scotland and Egypt. Following a degree in Psychology, his career has included teaching English in Spain, working as a researcher on an early computer games project, and working with groups and individuals on business planning, teamworking and personal development.
He has travelled extensively throughout his life and has always valued the importance of a good book to get through long flights and long waits in airports. With a personal preference for historical and science fiction as well as the occasional thriller, he had an idea for a book that would blend all three and The Sterling Directive was created.


When not working or writing, Tim enjoys long walks under big skies and is never one to pass up a jaunt across a field in search of an obscure historic site. He has recently discovered the more-exciting-than-you-would-think world of overly-complicated board games.

Social Media Links:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/timstandishUK

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/54755325-the-sterling-directive

Author image taken by Hannah Couzens Photography.

FOLLOW THE BLOG TOUR

Guest Post – Finding Inspiration by Irene Wittig

By Irene Wittig
World War II and the Nazis have been with me all my life, coloring all my memories, affecting my interpretation of politics and world events, and influencing my choices of movies to see and books to read. It was bound to inspire my writing. But it took time. I started writing because I fell in love with the hand painted ceramics I saw in Italy when I lived there. I set out to learn how to do it, and was eager to share that knowledge. So I wrote THE CLAY CANVAS, CREATIVE PAINTING ON FUNCTIONAL CERAMICS, and many magazine articles. I so enjoyed the painting and the writing, that I illustrated and wrote the alliterative AN AMUSING ALPHABET for pre-schoolers, based on designs I’d originally developed on ceramics.
But the Nazi era was never far from my mind. It had exploded my family, killing some, throwing others from their home in Vienna to Italy (where I was born), New York, France, Argentina, and Uruguay. My early childhood was spent changing countries and languages until we too arrived in New York into a world of displaced Europeans, many
of them Viennese. Unlike many immigrants who’d come to America seeking a better life, they had come because they’d been forced to leave lives they’d loved merely because they were Jewish, or half-Jewish, or married to Jews. Even as the years passed by, the past was never past. Anger, grief and longing rippled out from one generation to another. Finally I was ready to write about Vienna. Unexpectedly, I found myself writing about what life might have been for someone who had stayed. And so it was that my novel ALL THAT LINGERS was born.
Now that I felt like a writer, I couldn’t stop, so I wrote and published a few short stories with a twist called SHORT TALES AND RUMINATIONS, and have just launched my new novel THE BEST THING ABOUT BENNETT, which was partially inspired by experiences
my husband and I had in Uganda.
Inspiration can come from a world-changing event, or something small and seemingly unimportant—a dream, a conversation heard on a train, an unexpected visitor. In doing research for ALL THAT LINGERS, I collected videos and recordings, articles and photographs that I thought would interest readers and put them all on my website:

https://all-that-lingers.com

My novel I can be found at

or https://bookshop.org/books/all-that-lingers-9798623796721/9798623796721 or Draft2Digital

SHORT TALES AND RUMINATIONS at

https://www.amazon.com/dp/08TS218J4

The Ceramic ebook at

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09LJPHLV5

And the Ceramic print book at

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08NF34DX7

AN AMUSING ALPHABET at

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08CG7F9HJ

THE BEST THING ABOUT BENNETT at

Those Not-So-Wicked Sporting Ladies of the Wicked West by Mim Eichmann

GUEST POST

“Those Not-so-Wicked Sporting Ladies of the Wicked West”

by Mim Eichmann

Chicago, IL

A hundred years ago they were known as soiled doves, frail sisters, bawds, painted ladies, scarlet women, fille de joie, molls, courtesans, concubines, sporting woman, denizens, strumpets, adventuresses, working girls, tarts, unfortunates, the demimonde, the tenderloin, shady ladies, jezebels, harridans and harlots, among many other names, and more often than not, were residents of a brothel, red light district, parlor house, seraglio, hog ranch, crib, harem, the Line, whorehouse, bordello, or a bawdy house.  Many of these ladies of the night had fallen unintentionally – and many intentionally — into the sporting life as it was typically known, wishing to obscure their true names, origins and back stories, making it virtually impossible to ever reliably unravel their individual and occasionally, lurid histories.  

In most western frontier towns where men significantly outnumbered women — a ratio of at least 20 to 1 and typically far greater — prostitutes were considered an essential, though certainly not warmly embraced, necessity by their conservative female counterparts.  Decent married women were willing to put up with prostitutes to keep those randy single men away from their own otherwise puritanical daughters until those men managed to firmly affix a wedding ring on their daughters’ hand.  All a young girl had was her reputation and, as was well known, if that evaporated even by innuendo, she was most likely ruined for the rest of her life as borne out in literature by Jane Austen, Henry James, Edith Wharton and countless other authors of the day.

Once a woman had crossed over that line, society tended to lump loose women into a single mold.  Certainly all of them had to maintain a shrewd edge, but they were quite diverse in terms of temperament, education, worldliness, scientific and entrepreneurial endeavors.  

Of these so-called fallen women, it’s interesting to note that the madams, or owners, of many brothels, were wealthy, powerful and quite influential individuals whose brothels became centers of community, arts and culture in western towns.  Some of the most powerful madams were serious patronesses of art, music and education, as well as being philanthropists and major real estate moguls.  

Being a madam was one of the few actual “careers” afforded a woman in the 19th Century — the earliest prototype we have of a career woman, in fact!  Madams (and other wealthy prostitutes) donated money to charities, hospitals, churches, schools, cared for the impoverished and sick, and housed the homeless when no one else could be bothered.   They were involved with helping fund many cities’ initial infrastructures of gas, telephone and electric lines as well as owning mining claims, stocks, investing in municipal bonds, even jumping into the fray to keep banks afloat during challenging financial years. There was a huge demand for their money, but the women themselves, as well as their children, were forever shunned by society.

According to June Willson Read’s biography “Frontier Madam: The Life of Dell Burke, Lady of Lusk”, huge financial contributions by Dell Burke, a madam in Lusk, Wyoming, created infrastructures such as railroads, waterworks and electric lines through that part of the state.  Several biographers have mentioned Josephine “Chicago Joe” Hensley (or Airey), a madam in Helena, Montana who had a weekly payroll of $1,000 for numerous businesses she owned outside that of her brothel’s, paid hefty taxes on more than $200,000 in real estate holdings, and also contributed huge sums to many charities and political candidates, although she was never allowed to attend any of their meetings or even be introduced to anyone involved in those important enterprises.  According to Anne Seagraves’ book “Soiled Doves: Prostitution in the Early West”, “these enterprising women, who played an important role within their communities, were never invited to join or attend a commercial club.  They were not accepted by society, and in most cases, were not even protected by the law due to their profession.”

Mattie Silks, a wealthy Denver brothel owner, claimed that she had become a madam simply as a successful business venture and that she had never worked as a prostitute.  This claim was quite interestingly never disputed.   And Georgia Lee, a Fairbanks, Alaska prostitute, was quietly involved in funding many civic affairs and co-founded the Fairbanks branch of the Humane Society according to “Good Time Girls of the Alaska-Yukon Gold Rush” by Lael Morgan.

Another well known beautiful face who was a particular enigma was Etta Place, who for those of us enamored many years ago with Paul Newman and Robert Redford in “Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid”, was either a high class parlor attraction at Fanny Porter’s infamous house in Hell’s Half Acre in San Antonio, Texas, or she was a sedate schoolteacher in a one-room rural schoolhouse, helping to mastermind many of the infamous duos’ train robberies, something of a Robin Hood operation, according to Michael Rutter’s “Boudoirs to Brothels – the Intimate World of Wild West Women”. A young lady who led an incredibly complex double life, the beautiful Etta Place quite skillfully disappeared without a trace in the early 1900s.

Many prostitutes had exceptional nursing and mid-wife skills, often obtained by necessity, along with vast knowledge of herbs, medicinal concoctions and other healing remedies.  Occasionally they were clandestinely called upon to assist a married woman experiencing a difficult childbirth, but that same woman would turn her head the opposite direction afterwards if she encountered the prostitute on the street, refusing to acknowledge an acquaintance.  Additionally, women were not allowed any form of birth control (which was often unreliable anyway) and some prostitutes were quietly skilled abortionists, even aiding “respectable women” who wished to end an ill-timed pregnancy.  In the years between 1850 and 1870, one historian estimated that one abortion was performed for every five or six live births in America. 

Although she later denied it, Margaret Mitchell originally claimed that her fictional character of Belle Watling in “Gone with the Wind” was based on a madam in Lexington, Kentucky known as Belle Brezing, who died just after the movie’s 1939 release.  Ms. Mitchell’s husband was from Lexington and familiar with Belle Brezing’s checkered history, including the fact that the woman was quite well known as an excellent nurse.  In both the book and the movie, Belle Watling indeed claims to be a nurse and donates a rich purse filled with gold coins to the rapidly failing Confederate cause through Melanie Wilkes, the only married woman within the group willing to be seen accepting such a windfall from one of Atlanta’s most notorious madams.

Pearl DeVere, who was the madam of the Old Homestead brothel in Cripple Creek, Colorado, like so many others of the demimonde, wove multiple stories about her early life that makes it impossible to verify any of the tales. Not even a verifiable photograph of the young woman exists.  Born in Evansville, Indiana in 1859 as Eliza Martin into what certainly appears to have been a well-to-do family, exactly what led her into the world of prostitution is somewhat mysterious, based on the many different tales that Pearl herself fabricated over her short life.  She arrived in Cripple Creek possibly via Denver, around the time of the 1893 repeal of the Silver Act and set herself up quickly in the “trade” in the newly booming mining town.  Her sophistication, remarkable intelligence, and appreciation of fine arts and culture helped her build one of the most influential brothels in the country.

So who was Pearl DeVere?  Unless you’re from Colorado, have studied the Cripple Creek gold rush or have actually visited Cripple Creek and maybe participated in the annual Pearl DeVere bed race or some other quaint festival, you’ve probably never even heard of this woman.  And, as we’ve so often heard in recent years, history is really just “his” story and rarely also “her” story, particularly with respect to “career” women and their contributions to our past.  

Mabel Barbee Lee’s memoir, “Cripple Creek Days”, published in 1958, was drawn from her recollections as a very young child having grown up in the region. In the acknowledgements Ms. Lee mentions that one of her neighbor’s names, Molly Letts, was a pseudonym in her book because she had been a former prostitute and even after fifty years had ensued, she refused to let the woman’s reputation be sullied.  

Without question, however, at age 11, Mabel’s recollections of Pearl DeVere were firmly stamped on her memory, even though Mabel’s timelines appear to be a little fuzzy on occasion.  In mining camps very few women had beautiful stylish clothes or jewelry or immodest displays of wealth, certainly very impressionable items for a pre-teen.  Pearl was an excellent dress designer and wore her creations perfectly over her marvelously sculpted physique.  At age 31 she was a beautiful girl with red hair, bright flashing eyes and a slender build sporting gorgeous tight-fitting clothes and it was said that she never wore the same outfit twice.  She was strong-willed, shrewd, very well read, eloquent, and a very smart businesswoman.  

According to Janet Lecompte’s introduction in “Emily: The Diary of a Hard-Worked Woman”, a journal by a 42-year-old Denver divorcee: “In 1890 the average working woman in the United States had started to work at age 15 and was now 22, earning less than $6 a week for a 12-hour day.  In Denver, 15% of all women worked in 1890, most of them as domestic help, laundresses, or seamstresses, some making as much as $4-$6 per week.”  Unlike out East, there were very few factories or mills.  A miner’s wages typically brought a working man $3 per day for a nine-hour day.  By contrast, a wealthy man booking a stylish young courtesan’s company at the Old Homestead was shelling out $250 for the evening and had to book well in advance!  One can easily see the attraction for a young cultured woman such as Pearl to have built such an empire!

Mabel Barbee Lee goes on to say in her memoir: “Pearl DeVere became my secret sorrow, the heroine of my fondest daydreams, mysterious, fascinating and forbidden.”  Even some fifty years afterwards, Mabel vividly recalled hearing a gramophone playing from the Old Homestead’s windows, an expensive toy back in those days, and distinctly remembers the many details of Pearl’s unusual New Orleans’ early jazz style funeral cortege.  Accounts of the Old Homestead’s opulent parlor with a telephone, expensive Turkish carpets, chandeliers and the unheard of extravagance of two bathtubs also fill Mabel’s remembrances.  These finer houses demanded an almost European-like adherence to order, an essential step towards our country’s slowly working its way towards the civil society we’ve attempted to establish since that time.  

Along with so many others of the demimonde, Pearl’s contributions to the economic and political movements of the era were obscured as we’ve followed “his” story through our country’s development.  However, such acknowledgement is richly deserved and a sad omission.   These enterprising women’s contributions are long forgotten – or in many cases, were never even recognized.  But silently, all around us, as our first “career” women, their intriguing legacies live on.

Photos courtesy Charlotte Bumgarner, owner of The Old Homestead Museum, Cripple Creek CO

  1. Pearl DeVere’s grave marker – so many admirers originally placed jewelry around the heart-shaped stone that unfortunately the gifts stained the marble and a fence has now been erected around the tombstone to deflect such well-meaning, but destructive additions.  Appropriately, however, a pearl necklace remains.
  1. Lil Lovell – a beautiful prostitute in Denver who may have originally worked at the Old Homestead according to “Brothels, Bordellos, and Bad Girls – Prostitution in Colorado, 1860-1930” written by Jan MacKell Collins.

Mim Eichmann’s debut historical fiction novel “A Sparrow Alone” – a provocative coming-of-age saga of female empowerment during the 1890s Cripple Creek, CO gold rush — was published on April 15, 2020 by Living Springs Publishers of Centennial, CO.   Ms. Eichmann is a professional musician, singer/songwriter and choreographer living in Wheaton, Il.  Her author website is: www.mimeichmann.com.

Under the Light of the Italian Moon by Jennifer Anton – BLOG TOUR and GUEST POST

Today’s guest post is written by Jennifer Anton, the historical fiction author of Under the Light of the Italian Moon. I’d like to welcome Jennifer to the blog today and wish her much success on her blog tour. For additional stops on this tour, please scroll to the bottom and see information.

Jennifer Anton on How Mussolini’s Fascism Impacted Women

Since 2006, when I started researching my grandmother’s life in Italy, I’ve come to learn a lot about life for girls and women under il Duce. Life was not easy living under a dictator, yet we rarely hear about history from a women’s point of view. Instead, we hear about great battles, war hero soldiers, millions dying while men vie for power and other men race with guns and bombs to stop them. While the women suffer, outside of the decision making of heads of state, watching their children starve and attempting to hold families together. Such was the case for the women of Italy and the focus of my debut novel, Under the Light of the Italian Moon

When I was born, an article in a local paper featured my birth and the advancements in 1977 technology vs. my great-great grandmother’s experience in rural northern Italy. Adelasia Dalla Santa Argenta was a professionally trained midwife, known as La Capitana. She was a bold woman willing to risk a bullet during WWI to aid in the birth of a child. A story lingers in the town of Fonzaso about a doctor coming to get her in the middle of the night. He asked her if she had her gun. She replied, “I don’t need a gun. I have my cross.” She knew she couldn’t trust men, but she could trust her faith. 

Poster of il Duce’s local fascists in the town of Fonzaso, Italy

As a practicing midwife in the interwar years, the policies of il Duce would have directly impacted her trade. ONMI (L’Opera nazionale maternità e infanzia) which launched in 1925, would have been seen as a positive government investment in the health of women and children. A midwife would have welcomed it. But she wouldn’t have wanted the control that came along with the benefits. Mussolini was famous for his 1927 Ascension Day speech, where he made it clear that an Italian woman’s job was to provide babies for Italy. Population increases would mean an expansion of his empire and military. A woman’s body became a vessel for the state. 

Photo of Fonzaso (rights given by Giovanni Battista)

Nina Argenta and Adelasia Dalla Santa Argenta

Women were discouraged from working outside their homes and families. Abortion was banned. Contraceptive education was made illegal; even explaining natural birth control methods was against the law. But il Duce’s Battle for Births never saw its intended outcome. Mussolini couldn’t control everything inside the homes, in the bedrooms of the women he called on to provide the babies. Midwives had a level of control and influence even he could not penetrate.

Mussolini convinced the masses with a crowd-drawing bravado. He used violence via his black shirts, who visited naysayers with forced castor oil cocktails until they cramped into submission. He discredited the press in order to rise to control. “Il Duce ha sempre ragione.” Il Duce is always right. Women watched husbands leave for war, held the home front as towns were bombed and Nazi’s occupied with violent atrocities. 

All of my female ancestors dealt first hand with Mussolini’s masochistic reign. They survived two World Wars and with a strength not of guns or brute force, but of resilience and a fierce will to survive with their families. These women are unsung heroes, and they should not be forgotten. 

Book Title: Under the Light of the Italian Moon

Author: Jennifer Anton

Publication Date: 8th March 2021

Publisher: Amsterdam Publishers

Page Length: 394 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction/Biographical Fiction

BOOK BLURB

A promise keeps them apart until WW2 threatens to destroy their love forever

Fonzaso Italy, between two wars

Nina Argenta doesn’t want the traditional life of a rural Italian woman. The daughter of a strong-willed midwife, she is determined to define her own destiny. But when her brother emigrates to America, she promises her mother to never leave.

When childhood friend Pietro Pante briefly returns to their mountain town, passion between them ignites while Mussolini forces political tensions to rise. Just as their romance deepens, Pietro must leave again for work in the coal mines of America. Nina is torn between joining him and her commitment to Italy and her mother.

As Mussolini’s fascists throw the country into chaos and Hitler’s Nazis terrorise their town, each day becomes a struggle to survive greater atrocities. A future with Pietro seems impossible when they lose contact and Nina’s dreams of a life together are threatened by Nazi occupation and an enemy she must face alone…

A gripping historical fiction novel, based on a true story and heartbreaking real events.

Spanning over two decades, Under the Light of the Italian Moon is an epic, emotional and triumphant tale of one woman’s incredible resilience during the rise of fascism and Italy’s collapse into WWII.

Buy Links:

Amazon: getbook.at/JAnton

Barnes & Noble: https://bit.ly/3n1nDqC​ 

Waterstones: https://www.waterstones.com/book/under-the-light-of-the-italian-moon/jennifer-anton//9789493231009

Bookshop.org (U.S. only): https://bit.ly/3ofS39T

I am Books Boston: https://bit.ly/2Z0mWUO

Author Bio

Jennifer Anton is an American/Italian dual citizen born in Joliet, Illinois and now lives between London and Lake Como, Italy. A proud advocate for women’s rights and equality, she hopes to rescue women’s stories from history, starting with her Italian family.

Social Media Links

Website: www.boldwomanwriting.com

Twitter: www.twitter.com/boldwomanwrites

Facebook: www.facebook.com/jenniferantonauthorpage

Instagram: www.instagram.com/boldwomanwriting

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/janton1468/_created/

Book Bub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/jennifer-anton

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Jennifer-Anton/e/B08RL6HBDN%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share

Goodreads: https://bit.ly/2XsHt3F

Youtube: https://bit.ly/3i9XvZA

BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE

Thank you for stopping by today, Jennifer, and I wish you well on your blog tour!!

D. K. Marley

The Hist Fic Chickie

IMPERFECT ALCHEMIST: WRITING WOMEN’S VOICES by Dr. Naomi Miller

I’d like to welcome Naomi Miller to the blog today for a guest post.

Dr. Naomi Miller is a professor of English and the Study of Women and Gender at Smith College. An award-winning author of books on Renaissance women and gender, she teaches courses on Shakespeare and his female contemporaries, as well as on modern women’s adaptations and reinventions of Shakespeare. Her debut novel, Imperfect Alchemist (Allison & Busby, November 2020), focuses on Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke: https://naomimillerbooks.com/.

After thirty years as a scholar of early modern women’s studies, she realized that her work wasn’t close to being complete as long as the wider public had no awareness of the extraordinary women authors who were published and read in the time of Shakespeare. Imperfect Alchemist is the first in a projected series of novels centered on these authors, called Shakespeare’s Sisters – celebrating Renaissance women not simply for their relation to men (like the wives of Henry VIII), but for their own voices.

She was interviewed by the Folger Shakespeare Library’s podcast “Shakespeare Unlimited” – a great interview if you wish to listen here:

https://www.folger.edu/shakespeare-unlimited/mary-sidney-imperfect-alchemist-miller

Imperfect Alchemist: Writing Women’s Voices 

Guest Post by Naomi Miller 

Many popular novels about Renaissance women picture them in relation to powerful men. One  need look no further than the steady stream of novels about the wives of Henry VIII, perpetuating a  phenomenon that I have named the “Noah’s ark approach,” which positions women in dependent  relation to famous men. Contemporary readers of historical fiction have missed out on an extraordinary array of women’s voices that were heard in their own period – both acclaimed and reviled – but then  silenced over time and excluded from the canon of accepted classics. 

My own projected series, Shakespeare’s Sisters, comprises six interrelated historical novels  that imagine the stories of early modern women authors from their own perspectives. These novels offer fictional engagements with an array of early modern figures, from queens to commoners. Historical women, including Mary Sidney Herbert, the protagonist of Imperfect Alchemist, are at the  center of the narratives, bringing their voices and experiences to life for modern audiences.  

Shakespeare’s Sisters centers on women whose lives and voices both shape and are shaped by  women, many of whom appear in each other’s stories. Spanning generations and social classes, the  series paints a multi-hued portrait of Renaissance England, seen through the lives of courtiers,  commoners, poets, playwrights and, above all, indomitable women who broke the rules of their time  while juggling many of the responsibilities and obstacles faced by women worldwide today. 

Imperfect Alchemist, the opening novel in the series, is an imaginative reinvention of the  remarkable life of Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke – friend of Queen Elizabeth, visionary  scientist, advocate for women writers and scandalous lover of a much younger man. One of the earliest  women authors in Renaissance England to publish under her own name, the Countess successfully  forged a place for herself in a man’s world.

A member of one of England’s leading families, she carved out space for herself as a daring  and often controversial figure in a royal court riven by jealousies and intrigues. Her pioneering literary  and scientific experiments challenged many of Renaissance England’s established conventions – one  of the things that most strongly drew me to her.  

As an influential literary patron as well as author, she convened a literary salon of writers  whose membership included Edmund Spenser, John Donne, Ben Jonson and other authors interested in  testing the limits of literary forms. Her own play about Antony and Cleopatra is believed to have  influenced Shakespeare.  

Responding to the Countess’s role as mentor to a cohort of women writers – including Mary  Wroth, Aemilia Lanyer, Elizabeth Cary and Anne Clifford, all of whom will play lead roles in the Shakespeare’s Sisters series – I have imagined these women into her circle, their interaction with the  male authors inspiring visions of new possibilities.  

In Imperfect Alchemist, the fictional Mary Sidney Herbert is mediated through my knowledge  of her real-life circumstances and her writings. She was also a scientist, practicing alchemy in her  private laboratory to prepare chemical and herbal remedies. Although the Countess was a well regarded alchemist, no manuscript records of her alchemical recipes or experiments survive. I have  drawn on historical accounts documenting the detailed practices of other female alchemists of the  period present an authentic, if conjectural, account of her scientific work.  

As the acclaimed historical novelist Sarah Dunant observes, fashioning historical  verisimilitude, “like a pointillist painting,” lies in the details. Indeed, Dunant describes historical  details as “gold dust,” giving her readers confidence that they’re encountering worlds that actually  existed, thus grounding the novel’s inventions in a “multicolored” world.  

To lend a broader perspective than Mary’s point of view alone, I introduce an invented  character, Rose Commin, her lady’s maid – a country girl who brings an entirely different outlook to their intersecting lives. Trained to serve and observe, Rose proves to be both a keen judge of character  and a skilled artist whose drawings give new dimension to Mary’s own life and writings.  

Most of the characters in the book are fictional renditions of real historical figures whose roles  combine elements of their actual lives with my own inventions. The “supporting cast,” both real and  invented, adds three-dimensionality to the fictional storyline. 

Once I embarked on the first draft of the novel, I had to guard against my tendency, as a  scholar, to plunge down historical or literary “rabbit-holes,” enticed by fascinating details that would interrupt the writing process and might obscure rather than illuminate the story – dust rather than gold  dust. The most valuable advice I received came from a novelist friend who reminded me that “as a  novelist, your responsibility is to the story, not to history. Just tell the story that matters!” 

So what is the story that matters in Imperfect Alchemist? Most of the novel is written from two  alternating points of view: Mary’s, in the third person, and Rose’s, in the first person. As I was writing,  the story that came to matter the most was about both of these women, driven by sometimes conflicting  imperatives of creative expression and desire – one a quiet artist, the other an outspoken author – who  come to connect across class lines, learning truths from each other that they never expected to discover  about themselves and their world. 

The celebrated novelist Hilary Mantel maintains that “you become a novelist so you can tell the  truth,” and observes that “most historical fiction is … in dialogue with the past.” My driving aim is to  “tell the truth” that becomes visible in these historical women’s writings, and to put my own fiction  into dialogue with theirs. 

My goal has been to tell a story that imagines the perspectives of historical women in a world  that encompasses both known facts and imagined possibilities, illuminating the historical record without being limited by it. I like to think that the real Mary Sidney Herbert, alchemist and author, would appreciate my transmutation of her story.

Naomi Miller, “Imperfect Alchemist: Writing Women’s Voices”

Thank you for your guest post!

D. K. Marley

The Hist Fic Chickie

Buy the book:

The Renovation of Paris and the Rise of a Different Style of Painting

GUEST POST by DREMA DRUDGE

Author of Victorine, a novel about the iconic model of Manet’s Olympia turned painter, virtually forgotten by history, until now. Sign up to my newsletter, Artful Fiction, at: www.dremadrudge.com. Podcast: Writing All the Things 

We are the children of the times. We must create what we see as we see it”
-Manet 

There’s no place like Paris. Ah! From its white, uniform buildings to its wide boulevards, it’s unmistakable and has been aspirational for many another city, though none have quite been able to capture its gleam, its lovely bridges where Parisian lovers kiss at night and tourists linger. Of course, Paris didn’t always look like Paris. In 1853, demolition of the old, decrepit Paris began, the change spanning decades as the city was reborn. Most importantly to art lovers, these changes wrought by a well-known architect were recorded by and an influence on painters of the time. 

The man responsible for both the destruction and the resurrection of the old Paris was Georges-Eugène Haussmann, Baron Haussmann, as he was called by most. The architect was tasked with widening boulevards, bringing in a better water supply, and ameliorating sanitary conditions in an overcrowded city with ailing housing centuries old. However, while some looked to the future, eager to see the resulting Paris, others bewailed the loss of the former city.

In fact, a poet of the time, Charles Baudelaire, wrote “The Swan” in response to the changes to Paris’s landscape. He, along with others, wasn’t pleased with “progress” when it meant tearing down medieval Paris. Younger Parisians took the opportunity to record the changes, the losses and the gains. 

The Swan 

Old Paris is gone (no human heart

changes half so fast as a city’s face) …
There used to be a poultry market here,
and one cold morning … I saw

a swan that had broken out of its cage,
webbed feet clumsy on the cobblestones,
white feathers dragging through uneven ruts,
and obstinately pecking at the drains …

Paris changes … but in sadness like mine
nothing stirs—new buildings, old
neighbourhoods turn to allegory,

and memories weigh more than stone. 

On the art scene, the rise of Impressionism and its cousin movements such as Modernism meant painters either recorded with pleasure the drastic changes or complained with their brushes. In fact, while it seems an exaggeration, some see the rise of Impressionism as coming from the renovations. 

Manet, seen by some as the father of Modernism, showed the city’s alterations in his paintings of the time: his outdoor scenes revealed the absence of older buildings, the rise of new, and the increasingly wider boulevards that would become a trademark of Paris. 

His subjects were typically painted en plein air or represented those who worked the streets in one capacity or another. Notably, The Street Singer, which he painted in 1866, using his frequent model, painter Victorine Meurent, the label of that particular painting referring directly to the outdoors nature of the city. It could be argued that the doing away with old Paris encouraged him to imagine a new way of painting. As he was quoted as saying,  “We are the children of the times. We must create what we see as we see it.” Indeed, he did just that. 

He began painting everyday life, a new idea. He painted sidewalk cafes, those out on strolls. As Parisians moved outdoors, so did paintings. His The Rue Mosnier with Flags commemorated the Fête de la Paix (Celebration of Peace) on the 30 June 1878. 

Claude Monet, similarly, painted scenes of city life early in his career. From flags being flown to the train station (his La Gare Saint-Lazare was painted in 1877, while Manet’s take on the same was painted in 1873), Monet was a definitely a Paris flaneur. He painted wintry Boulevard Des Capucines in 1873 and his celebration of Le Pont Neuf of 1871.
Gustave Caillbotte is well known for his Paris Street – Rainy Weather (1877) and A Young Man at His Window (1875), which are only two of his paintings revealing his preoccupation with urban realism, another way of saying Parisians painters became obsessed with their city and its vibrant, newly outdoors, lifestyle. 

A View of Paris from the Trocadero by Berthe Morisot 1871-72 reflected a distanced view of the city a middle-class woman such as she would have had, living in the “suburbs” as she did, but with the city’s buildings close by. 

The makeover of Paris was as expensive as it was extensive, altering Paris forever. It went from a city of dirty, messy streets to a place where city dwellers began spending more and more time outdoors in cafes, strolling gardens and the broadened streets. Instead of only going to the outskirts of Paris to paint, artists were inspired to paint what was right outside their own windows and ultimately, they moved from complaining about the changes to embracing and immortalizing their times. That is something from which we viewers will forever benefit. 

Historical Leadership in Fiction: Writing Great Leaders by Clare Rhoden

BY Clare Rhoden

In these uncertain times, we are all looking for great leaders.

When I wrote a novel about Australians in the World War One (WWI), I discovered that there are many different interpretations of good leadership.

It’s a bit of a cliché in Britain that the WWI leaders let their men down. You might remember the joke from Blackadder Goes Forth about an attack being ordered because General Haig wanted to move his drinks cabinet six inches closer to Berlin.

It’s not quite the same for us downunder. We still revere John Monash, William Birdwood and Harold ‘Pompey’ Elliott – we saved our greatest disgust for their superiors from Britain, fairly or unfairly. For the Australians, good leadership was essential to any success, because alone of all the combatant nations in the conflict, ours was an entirely volunteer force. Leading volunteers is different. I had to research how various styles of leadership look in fiction, before I could convincingly create effective characters in my own novel.

I checked out Shakespeare’s great leaders. The Bard knows that simply naming a man ‘leader’ is not enough. Look how he portrays Richard II and King Lear: they fail to act their kingly parts and come to sticky ends. Richard III and MacBeth use their power for personal gain with the same result. Gathering treasure for yourself would be fine for a leader in Alexander’s Macedonia, but not in Shakespeare’s day, or ours. Coriolanus, even while leading from the front, separates himself from his emotions and becomes too distant from his followers. He ends up despising them, and they rise up against him. Again, he comes to sticky end.

However, Henry V is successful and heroic. He can relate to ordinary people as well as high-caste advisers, and he links his emotions with his responsibilities. Henry V has confidence in himself and instils it in others (‘once more …’). He instigates change and takes the long view rather than the easy road. He doesn’t lie, even in dire circumstances. Most importantly, Hal can invest dreadful situations with coherence and meaning (‘we few, we happy few …’). I needed somebody with this kind of leadership in my novel.

Maybe it’s what the world needs now.

About the author

Clare Rhoden is an author and book reviewer living in Melbourne Australia. Her historical novel The Stars in the Night follows the adventures of one South Australian family through the First World War. The novel was based on her PhD studies into leadership in Australian WWI narratives, and was inspired by the experiences of her grandparents who emigrated to Adelaide in January 1914.

Clare has also written a dystopian trilogy The Chronicles of the Pale, inspired by the worldwide refugee and climate crises. Strangely enough, dystopia and WWI seem to go well together.

She reviews for her website, for Aurealis magazine, and for the HNS website.

Links:

Website: clarerhoden.com

Blog: https://clarerhoden.com/blog/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/clareelizabethrhoden

Instagram: @ClareER

Books:

The Stars in the Night The Chronicles of the Pale

Hitler and Mussolini’s “Option” Left the Tyroleans with Nothing – by Chrystyna Lucyk-Berger

After WWI and ratification of the Versailles treaty, Italy, as a European ally, was ceded the portion of Tyrol south of Brenner Pass. As part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the population was German speaking and had been part of an autonomous province for some one hundred years, meaning they had controlled their laws, government, and all aspects of their society.  The allies stipulated that the German speaking population should have their rights, language, culture, and religion protected and that they should be able to participate in governing their own territory.

The idea of self-determination introduced by Woodrow Wilson in 1918 legitimized their quest for protection of their ethnicity and language. Yet, the peace of Paris of 1919 denied the South Tyroleans the right to self-determination and incorporated the German-speaking territory of the South Tyrol into Italy. The Allies and Austria recognized that “the Italian Government intended to pursue a liberal policy toward its new subjects of German nationality regarding their language, culture, and economic interest.[1]

During the first years of South Tyrolean integration into Italy, both Italian authorities and South Tyrolean representatives tried to find an appropriate solution for the future settlement of what was now—as part of Italy—a German-speaking minority. Yet, a movement called the irredenta, or the unredeemed, insisted that this area should have always belonged to Italy, and were determined to crush any sense of Tyrolean culture. When Benito Mussolini and his Fascist party took over in 1922, the South Tyroleans faced a different treatment by the Italian authorities. Fascism threatened not only to suppress the language of the German-speaking minority in the north, but also began to uproot the cultural identity of that area.[2]

The first and major aim was to Italianize the public language of the area, to Italianize all public inscriptions, town names, street names, and eventually family names and even inscriptions on tombstones.


[1] Eva Pfanzelter, The South Tyrol and the Principle of Self Determination: An Analysis of a Minority Problem, p33

[2]. Eva Pfanzelter, The South Tyrol and the Principle of Self Determination: An Analysis of a Minority Problem, p33

They provided “relief organizations,” which would aid in further penetrating the German speaking communities: free schoolbooks, meals and holidays by the sea for children who joined their youth organizations, jobs for those adults who joined the workers association and established trade connections for the companies who collaborated with the Fascist economic organizations.  For those who did not comply, there was major harassment, despotic laws that even regulated their pets and personal belongings.

“Majoritarianism” was the attempt by the Italian government to generate an Italian majority in the South Tyrol. In Bolzano, they built a new industrial complex, and apartment buildings for Italian factory workers. In other cities the government financed the construction of hydroelectric power plants which flooded lands and villages. The government started purchasing land from South Tyrolean bankrupted farmers and provided minor compensation for land destroyed by the flooding. The South Tyroleans had little chance to resist the dictatorial measures.

Although open confrontation with the Italian regime was rare, the South Tyroleans managed to withstand most of the Italianization efforts. They could not prevent the Italianization of the names of their villages and streets, but they prevented the Italianization of their children by speaking their German dialect at home and by teaching them written German in their illegal, secret schools. Organizations and associations that the Italian regime had not forbidden found ways to bypass the official orders. The marching bands renamed songs the fascists had prohibited. The traditional Austrian “Under the Double Eagle” became the “Eagle March” and the march “Vienna Always Remains Vienna” turned into “Wine Always Remains Wine.  Also, due to secret financial help from German relief funds during the economic crisis, many South Tyroleans did not have to face bankruptcy.[3]


[3] Eva Pfanzelter, The South Tyrol and the Principle of Self Determination: An Analysis of a Minority Problem, p 39

The idea of Volkssturm found its most radical realization in Hitler’s ideology. The new resistance group consisted mostly of young people. For them Germany, and especially Nazi-Germany, was the example of unprecedented economic rise and a reflection of the modern age.  Between 1928 and 1939 various resistance groups formed in the province to fight the fascist Italian regime and its policy of suppressing the German language.

Yet, no matter how intense the South Tyroleans’ effort to conform with national socialistic ideals was, Hitler had different intentions; he claimed that Germany’s only possible option was to assure Italy that the South Tyrolean problem did not exist. Despite Hitler’s public renunciation of South Tyrol and despite the development of the German-Italian friendship, the South Tyroleans’ continued to hope for integration with Nazi-Germany. For them Hitler’s foreign policy was an indication that his remarks on South Tyrol were tactically necessary steps[4]

During Hitler’s visit in Rome in May 1938, Mussolini confessed, “The past developments have shown, that this tribe cannot be assimilated,” therefore he promised that he would make some concessions to the German-speaking minority in the north as long as Hitler guaranteed the pacification of the area. By now, both Germany and Italy were interested in settling this question once and for all.[5]

June 23, 1939 the two dictatorial regimes decided to move the German-speaking South Tyroleans to German territory in the north and leave South Tyrol with Italy. The two governments gave the South Tyroleans the option either to emigrate to Germany or to remain in South Tyrol and become “good Italians.” At first, the South Tyroleans’ reactions were a fierce rejection of Hitler’s offer to “come home into the Reich.” But soon the Nazi-oriented VKS (Völkisher Kampfring Südtirols, or the South Tyrolean People’s Freedom Party) succeeded in convincing their fellow countrymen that the South Tyroleans’ resettlement in Germany was a necessary “sacrifice.”[6]


[4] Eva Pfanzelter, The South Tyrol and the Principle of Self Determination: An Analysis of a Minority Problem, p 45

[5] Eva Pfanzelter, The South Tyrol and the Principle of Self Determination: An Analysis of a Minority Problem, p 45

[6] Eva Pfanzelter, The South Tyrol and the Principle of Self Determination: An Analysis of a Minority Problem, p 47

The propaganda that evolved on both sides during the months following the June discussions, eventually divided the German-speaking South Tyroleans population into two hostile camps, those remaining and those who opted for Germany. 

85%-90% of the population opted for emigration; and were called Optanten. Those who chose to stay, called Dableiber, or the Leavers and Stayers. The Dableiber were condemned as traitors while the Optanten were defamed as Nazis. The Option destroyed many families and the development of the economy of the province was set back for many years. The first families left their homeland in 1939, and by 1943 a total of around 75,000 South Tyroleans had emigrated, of which 50,000 returned after the war. 

The era of the Options, however, had opened a deep gap among the German speaking population of the South Tyrol. Those remaining were in the minority and were repeatedly exposed to persecution from those who had opted to migrate. They were treated like betrayers of their country, their nationality, their blood, and their neighborhood. Friedl Volgger, who became an influential politician, had opted to stay in the South Tyrol and ended up in the concentration camp Dachau. He explained: “What the Jews were in the German Reich, were now part of the South Tyroleans in the eyes of their fanatical compatriots. The hatred between the two groups did not know any confines. Children left their parents, neighbors burned their neighbors’ houses, priests fought each other from the pulpit. In 1943 when Hitler’s troops finally marched into the South Tyrol the situation of those who had opted to remain became even worse. [7]

Seventy-three years after having their autonomy stolen from them, the German-speaking minority in the north of Italy succeeded in securing the ethnic, cultural, social, economic, and political uniqueness of their homeland. Today, the South Tyroleans are among the best protected minorities in Europe. They determine their own political future and administer their province by themselves. 


[7] Eva Pfanzelter, The South Tyrol and the Principle of Self Determination: An Analysis of a Minority Problem, p 50

Background history to Chrystyna’s new novel “Two Fatherlands” – a “Just Hatched” new book release.

Original post on Chrystyna’s blog – visit here where you can follow her and check out her new book. https://inktreks.com/2020/10/03/the-option-tyrol/

Buy the Reschen Valley Series here: https://books2read.com/NoMansLand1

The Mysterious Agent 355 by Amber Leigh

She’s been fascinating people since 1948, when Long Island historian Morton Pennypacker first wrote about her.

The problem is, she might never have existed. Not as Pennypacker described her, that is. But I’ll explain.

We know Agent 355 was a real person…specifically, a woman who assisted George Washington’s Culper Spy Ring. Washington’s spymaster, Benjamin Tallmadge, devised a numerical code dictionary for the Culper spies to use when composing their intelligence letters.

And the code number for “lady” was 355.

These days, people often use the words woman and lady interchangeably. But in eighteenth-century parlance, a lady was distinct from a mere woman. Simply put, ladies were women from the upper classes…usually from the landed gentry or urban elites.

And ladies were very carefully brought up. They were educated in the feminine arts and social graces of the time. Not all ladies were wealthy, though; some lived in a state of what one might call “genteel poverty”.

In any case, we know 355 was real because Abraham Woodhull – that is, Samuel Culper, Senior – mentioned her in one of his intelligence letters. He didn’t say whether she was rich or poor or what exactly she did, only that she helped him in some way. Of her existence, this is the only real evidence we have.

But we don’t have any evidence at all when it comes to her actual identity. This is something historians have loved to speculate about.

Anna Smith Strong

If you haven’t yet read Washington’s Spies: The Story of America’s First Spy Ring by Alexander Rose, I highly recommend it. In my humble opinion, it’s the best (and probably the most accurate) book about the Culpers you’ll find out there.

Alexander Rose, by the way, was the co-writer and co-producer for the AMC series Turn: Washington’s Spies. The series was based on his book.

So…Rose puts forward Anna Smith Strong as 355. She was Woodhull’s neighbor in his hometown of Setauket, on eastern Long Island. On at least a few occasions, she traveled with him on his journeys to and from New York. Because the checkpoint guards were less likely to search men who traveled with their wives, she pretended to be Mrs. Woodhull, and the ruse succeeded.

Mary Underhill

Another candidate for 355 – though less likely, in my view – has been Woodhull’s sister, Mary Underhill. She lived in New York with her husband, where they ran a boardinghouse. Because Woodhull stayed there whenever he went to New York, Mary probably knew her brother was spying. Whether she ever helped him in his spying, though, is something we cannot know.

Sally Townsend

A more intriguing candidate for 355 is Robert Townsend’s sister, Sally. Morton Pennypacker strongly believed Sally shared important information with Robert – Culper, Junior – which he then passed on to George Washington.

Since then, the theory that Sally Townsend was a spy has been a popular one, though it appears Pennypacker never thought to identify her as the “lady” from Woodhull’s letter. Historian Paul R. Misencik, in Sally Townsend, George Washington’s Teenage Spy, explains why he believes Sally may have been 355.

The thing is, Sally would have had to be acquainted with Abraham Woodhull in order to be that lady. Perhaps they were acquainted, though there doesn’t seem to be any proof of that. And even if they did meet, it’s hard to say whether they knew each other well enough for the level of trust required to spy together.

So, as I do in the cases of Anna Strong and Mary Underhill, I have my doubts about Sally Townsend being 355.

Then who was she?

Woodhull’s word choice is key, as is the fact that he addressed all his intelligence letters to Benjamin Tallmadge, who later decoded them. In the letter I mentioned above, he told Tallmadge that “by the assistance of a 355 [lady] of my acquaintance, [I] shall be able to outwit them all.” Below is a caption of the sentence from that very same letter, written August 15, 1779:

From the George Washington Papers. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

But Tallmadge, like Woodhull, was a Setauket native. He was close to Woodhull’s age, and they grew up together. And his connection to Anna Strong was as close as Woodhull’s, if not closer. His widowed father, the Reverend Benjamin Tallmadge, married Zipporah Strong on January 3, 1770. And Zipporah was the sister of Selah Strong, Anna’s husband.

Therefore, it seems strange that Woodhull, in addressing Tallmadge, would refer to Mrs. Strong as “a lady of my acquaintance [emphasis added].” That would infer that Woodhull knew her, and that Tallmadge did not.

But with Anna Strong, that couldn’t have been the case. Otherwise, he’d have written “a lady of our acquaintance” or “a lady we know.” Wouldn’t he?

Of course, Woodhull did know Mary Underhill much better, as she was his sister, and I’m sure Tallmadge knew her, too. But a close relative, with whom one grew up, is no mere “acquaintance.” So Mary Underhill was also probably not the mysterious unnamed lady.

Now it is very likely that Tallmadge never met Sally Townsend. And again, we don’t know for sure whether Woodhull ever met her or not. Even if he did, the odds are high that Robert Townsend would not have permitted Woodhull to stop off in Oyster Bay to glean secrets from his little sister.

That doesn’t mean Robert himself never gleaned a secret or two from Sally. But whether he did or not, the way Woodhull wrote the above sentence makes it sound as though he received direct assistance from this lady. That wouldn’t have been the case if Robert gathered the information from Sally and then shared it second-hand – and verbally – with Woodhull afterwards.

Like I said, the clue seems to lie in Woodhull’s word choice.

So…who, then, was 355?

This is a subject I will be returning to in the future!

Original post: https://amberleighauthor.com/2020/01/07/the-mysterious-agent-355/

Thank you to guest contributor, Amber Leigh!

D. K. Marley